Wednesday 31 August 2011

La Tomatina - Tomato Fight Festival

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La Tomatina is held on the last wed in Aug every year, which happens to be today!! It's held in a small town Bunol, 38 km from the more well known Valencia, hosts to the Formula One in Spain. 
The population size of Bunol is around 9000 but on this particular day, up to 40000 tourist will flock here for the festival so you can imagine how crowded it can get!!

I had to the chance to witness this unusual event in 2007 and what an experience it was!! I went there with 2 girlfriends but i would recommend having some guys with you as it can get rowdy and guys will try to rip your tshirts off! So yes!! Some bodyguards are highly advisable!
We were all excited and came dressed in clothes we were prepared to throw away, fresh clothes in waterproof bags, and also a waterproof disposable camera. One thing were didn't have was goggles which would have came in really handy. 

Crowds were immense and right in the centre of town, there wasn't any need for us to walk anymore since we were just pushed along! Everyone was just getting squished!! 

At around 10 am, quite a few huge trucks will drive into the town centre carrying 100 tons of (supposedly over-ripe) tomatoes, water cannons are fired to mark the start and the fight begins! 
Participants are suppose to squash the tomatoes before throwing them but of course, that doesn't always happen and I don't actually think that some of the tomatoes are overripe as it was quite painful when i got hit!
The pelting of tomatoes lasts for only an hour and water cannons are then fired again to mark the end of the fight. Once they are sounded, no more tomatoes can be thrown and the cleaning up begins.
Fire trucks are used to hose down the streets and they do it really quickly too! The streets get cleaned up in on time at all! Some of the residents will also come out of their houses to hose the participants down.
The smell of tomatoes stuck with us for the next 2 days and we came out of it with some bruises but it was a fun experience!!! A waste of tomatoes though. 

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Notting Hill Carnival

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The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event that's held West London during the Aug Bank Holidays in the UK since 1964. What started as a local festival amongst the West Indian Community in Notting Hill has now ballooned into the Europe's largest Street Festival attracting people from all over the world!

The carnival almost didn't happened this year due to the recent riots but loads of policemen were in place to keep order so all the revellers and performers still had a pretty good time!

It was one of vibrance, colour, loud music, loads of fancy moves and of course it was also filled with the smell of Caribbean food!

So check this Festival out if you ever get the chance and I'm sure you'll be showing off some moves of your own. :)

Monday 29 August 2011

Beautiful Tulips in all their glory!

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Many would agree that the best place to see tulips would be in Keukenhof, Holland. Tulips seekers willl descend upon Keukenhof between the months of March and May to see these beauties at their best!! Have heard that the best way to enjoy the scenery would be to rent a bicycle and just cycle the day away so be sure to learn how to cycle before you make a trip there. :)

Since I haven't had the chance to visit Keukehof yet, the next best place, in my opinion, to see these pretty flowers would be in Hampton Court Gardens in Surrey, UK. There's quite a variety to revel in and on a good day, the gardens make for a nice day out!!!

Sunday 28 August 2011

Chamchijeon - Korean Tuna Pancakes

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I've been visiting since my friend, Evelyn,  a very keen cook, introduced me to it. Love this website as it contains easy and delicious Korean recipes and I for one, don't know too much about Korean food other than Korean BBQ, kimchi, bibimbap(mixed rice), pajeon(green onion pancake and bulgogi(marinated BBQ beef). Yup, i think that's about it. Oh and kimchi chigae (kimchi soup). :P So I am definitely learning more about Korean food through this website!!

Here's one easy side dish that i made recently, Chamchijeon or Tuna Pancakes. Some how it kinda changes the taste of canned tuna and is somewhat chewy and really tasty so it's a winner!!

Adapted from Maangchi. com

Ingredients (for 2-3 servings):
1 can of tuna (5 oz: 142 grams)

ground black pepper,
sesame oil
canola oil

  1. Strain out the liquid from a can of tuna and place it in a bowl
  2. Add ¼ cup chopped onion, 1 minced garlic, 1ts salt, ¼ ts ground black pepper, 1 egg, 1 ts sesame oil, chives and 2 tbs flour to the tuna and mix it well.
  3. Heat up a non-stick pan and spread 1-2 tbs canola oil.
  4. Scoop a spoonful of the tuna mixture with a spoon and place it on the heated pan.
  5. Press slightly and round the edges with the spoon.
  6. Make 6 small size pancakes with the tuna mixture.
  7. When the bottom is cooked golden brown, turn it over and cook until both sides of the pancakes are golden brown. Total cooking time is 3-5 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate and serve with rice.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Flowers, Flowers and more flowers!

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Flowers! Who doesn't love them? They can lift your spirits up! A natural pick me up!  They brighten up a room or a photo! They make someone you love really happy!! They make a good surprise for someone!! and much much more!!

I take the chance to capture pictures of flowers whenever the opportunity arises and love unusual ones just like the Bleeding Hearts in one of my previous posts! In fact, i get really excited whenever I see something new!! :)

So here are some flowery photos I have in my collection. Hope they'll bring a smile to your face and brighten up your day even more! Enjoy!!! 

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Aubergine in a brownie??!!!!

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I've been intrigued with using various kinds of vegetables in baking to make my diet that bit healthier. Can using vegetables really give a cake its moistness? Will the cake still taste of vegetables? Can it really taste like the real thing? These were some of the questions I had so to answer them, i had to try it myself. I've tried baking muffins using peas, banana bread using courgettes but nope, i didn't really like them. The muffin really tasted of peas which was rather odd and the banana bread had an spongy, not to great texture to it. 

Not being happy with the recipes I tried so far, I decided to get the Harry Eastwood Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache book after reading some good reviews. All recipes in there contain vegetable of some sorts so it was just what I was searching for...i hope.....

Flipping through it, the 1st recipe that caught my eye was one called Heartache Chocolate cake as it uses aubergines!!!! I really adore aubergine, making Pasta Alla Norma and Caponata quite often but using it in a cake? I've never heard of it before so it would be a pretty interesting one to try. What even more unusual about it was that the recipe didn't contain flour nor butter nor oil?? I was in the world is this possible!!!!???????? So now, this has really caught my attention and I couldn't wait to get into it!! I was definitely skeptical as to how it would turn out so I was keeping my fingers crossed!

And the outcome of it all was................AMAZING!!! I was pleasantly surprised as was my hubby. It was rich, moist,dense and oh so moreish,  just like how a brownie should be so I shall call it that instead of a cake. ;P 

2 small whole aubergines/1 large weighing 400g
300g best dark chocolate you can find (minimum 70% cocoa solids) broken into pieces
50g good quality cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
60g ground almonds
3 medium eggs
200g clear honey
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 x 23cm diameter x 7cm cake tin
A skewer
A microwave
A blender 

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2) Line the tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil.
3) Cook the aubergine: prick all over with a skewer, place in a microwaveable bowl, cover with cling film and cook on a high heat in the microwave for 8 minutes until limp.
4) Leave until cool enough to handle then skin, discarding any water.
5) Purée in the blender and then add in the chocolate. Heat a little more in the microwave if the chocolate needs help melting.
6) Whisk all the other ingredients together in a large bowl.
7)  Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl with the other ingredients.
8)Pour it into the tin, place in the bottom of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.(I had to bake it for 50 mins)
9) Remove from the oven. let it cool in the tin and then invert it onto a rack to finish cooling
10) Sieve a little cocoa power on top and serve.

Monday 22 August 2011

Thai food in a London pub? The Churchill Arms.

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I recently wrote about Sedap Restaurant in Old Street which used to be called Nyonya in Notting Hill.  Am sure the residents living nearby would have been quite sad to lose a nice little restaurant like this but no worries! There's actually another gem of a place in Notting Hill too!! One that was introduced to me by my ex boyfriend (now husband). :) This time, it's a thai restaurant that is unusually housed in a Pub, one that's called Churchill Arms. Yes! in a pub, and a very colourful one in fact! The exterior is so beautifully covered with loads of colourful flowers so no one would ever just walk past this place without noticing it. One would actually think that it's a flower shop instead of a pub!

Once you step inside, there's no surprises here as it looks like pub. 

However, as you walk through to the back dining area, you'll feel like you've walked into a greenhouse with all the foliage and framed butterflies everywhere.

Waiting staff are all Thai so that's always a good thing in my opinion. The tables gets filled up pretty fast and in fact, we were told that we had our table for only an hour so they made it seem like we had to rush through our meal. Not too nice a thought. However, food is also served in the main pub area so there's still opportunity to get a seat unless it's absolutely jammed packed.

We started with the piping hot, deliciously crunchy spring rolls followed by a Pad Thai(Stir-fried rice noodles) and Chicken Pad Nam Prik Pao (Chicken fried in a spicy chilly paste).

Spring Rolls

Pad Thai

Pad Nam Prik Pao
The Pad Nam Prik Pao was very nicely spiced with chilli, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste. Though quite fiery, we could still taste the sweetness of the palm sugar in the background with made it a good dish. Prices here are quite reasonable with a main dish prices at around £7.50.

We are thinking of checking out the Notting Hill carnival this weekend so we might just pop by again! 

Churchill Arms
119 Kensington Church St
KensingtonW8 7LN

Sunday 21 August 2011

Chai (Spiced Tea)

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Even though it's suppose to be summer, the weather has been cold and gloomy so it feels more like autumn somehow. Having lived in the UK for almost 5 years, I should probably have already gotten used to the erratic weather. It sometimes snows in April and Oct. I've encountered rain, hail, snow, bright sunshine all in a day. Weather that alternates between heavy rain and bright sunshine every hour. I should have gotten used to it by now but somehow I haven't, just like lots of people over here. I now understand why the British like talking about the weather so much as it's really something you'll have to experience before believing.

So on days when it's cold, nothing warms me up better than a nice cup of Chai(spiced tea). Chai originates from India and every household have their very own special recipes so after going looking through quite a few, I came up with this version that may be a little more gingery then the norm so feel free to adjust the spices according to your taste

1 big thumb of ginger (sliced thinly)
10 whole black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 star anise
grating of netmeg
2 black tea bags
1.5 cups water
0.5 cups milk
Sugar to taste

In a pestle and mortar, crush up the black pepper, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, star anise and cardamom. 

Place all the crushed spices, ginger and water in a pot and simmer for 20 mins.

Add milk to the pot, boil for a minute before adding the tea bags and boil for a further 2 mins.

Pour the chai through a sieve, add sugar to taste and enjoy!! :)

Thursday 18 August 2011

Banana Oatflakes Loaf

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I've made this countless times but I thought of changing it a little this time round by adding oat flakes to it, just for the fun of it. Nuts are usually added so why not cornflakes or oatflakes right? ;) The results was that it was just as good though the oat flakes mixed into the cake didn't really add much to it since they became soft due to the moisture of the other ingredients however, the oat flakes and crumbled over the top added a nice crunch to the cake so that's something I'll definitely add to the recipe when i next make it!

Here's the recipe that was adapted from Hummingbird Bakery. The main changes I made was to half the amount of sugar, replace butter with light olive oil and included oatflakes to the recipe. 

  • 135g soft light brown sugar (original recipe called for 270g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g peeled bananas, mashed
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 140 Light olive oil (original recipe called for melted unsalted butter)
  • 80g oatflakes
Grease a 23x13cm loaf tin and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F / GM3
Put the sugar and eggs in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas.

Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix it thoroughly until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.  Stir in 60g of oatflakes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over with a palette knife. Crush remaining oatflakes and sprinkle it on top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. 

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